concordnhThe NH Senate has approved its version of the state budget, largely endorsing the recommendations of the Senate Finance committee. In terms of spending (HB 1), there were no changes from the Finance committee's proposals adopted by the full Senate. There were minor changes to HB 2 (spending mechanism) on the floor. However, none of these minor changes affects the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). It is expected that Governor Hassan will veto this latest budget version.

As a reminder, the Senate Finance committee provided that the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS) be funded at $23 million more in general funds than the House budget recommendations. Although this is a positive step, it is still $3 million less in general funds than Governor Hassan's recommended BDS budget.

There were several "floor amendments," or attempts to override the Senate Finance committee's recommendations, during the debate. In terms of DHHS, these three floor amendments were offered, all of which failed:

* The "reauthorization" of Medicaid Expansion or the NH Health Protection Program. (This program will expire on December 31, 2016.)

* An effort to provide additional funding to community mental health services

* Continued funding of the substance use disorder czar or office under the governor

Governor Hassan has essentially stated she will veto the present version of the budget. Read about the governor's long list of reasons to veto this budget by clicking here. The Senate addressed none of the governor's concerns in terms of specific changes to the budget.

After the vote, Governor Hassan issued a statement late last week about the Senate's final actions. You can read this statementc by clicking here.

What comes next?

At this point, a Committee of Conference (COC) is likely to be set up this week. Rep. Kurk will chair this effort and Sen. Forrester will be the Senate lead. During this COC, the likely scenario is that the group will review all changes the Senate made from House actions. The conferees will either agree on the change and move on, or discuss the issue further. Those issues discussed further will obviously be the key things to watch.

It is possible that new issues could be inserted in the budget during the COC phase. The governor has stated that she remains hopeful that the COC will in fact address the concerns she has with the current version of the spending plan. The present deadlines call for the COC to complete its work by June 18th. Following, the COC work the House and Senate must approve the budget as presented up or down (no more amendments).

Based on a variety of factors, the Area Agencies will be focusing our budget advocacy on removing the Step 2 so-called "savings" contained in HB 1. A letter on the issue will be released later this week, to be followed up by direct outreach to members of the COC.

Looking into the crystal ball...

Should the budget be vetoed later this month, the House would immediately attempt to override the veto, which would take a 2/3 vote. The House republicans currently hold 238 seats while the democrats hold about 161. An override is highly unlikely to be successful. In other words, if the governor decides to veto the budget, HB 1 and HB 2 will be dead. Should this be the case, the COC could quickly reconvene to try and address the governor's concerns. This could happen in a special session, and it would allow the Legislature to send the governor a new budget before June 30.

Another option would be for the House and Senate to pass a continuing resolution, which would likely level fund state government at present levels for a short period of time while work continues on a plan the Legislature and governor can agree to support.

Stay tuned to local news, including NHPR, and the MDS website for continuing developments in coming days and weeks.